In recent years, films like Wild Hogs and The Bucket List have explored ideas of old men looking to revisit their youth with mixed results. Last Vegas manages to be a step above those efforts, but it’s not without weak points.
Once known as the Flatbush Four, Archie (Morgan Freeman), Paddy (Robert De Niro), Billy (Michael Douglas), and Sam (Kevin Kline) meet in Vegas for Billy’s bachelor party. While Archie, Paddy, and Billy are living mundane lives, Billy is a playboy with a young bride to be. Since they have about 72 hours of “freedom,” you can imagine what kinds of hijinks ensue.
It’s disappointing to see an ensemble of renowned actors stooping to a level that’s beneath them, but thankfully that doesn’t happen here. However, when you consider that the film has been dubbed the geriatric Hangover, you can’t help but wonder how much better Last Vegas could have been.
Jon Turteltaub, who’s known for family-friendly action fare like National Treasure and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, strays from his comfort zone with the comedy but utilizes his skills to bring some fast-paced action to the proceedings. The story moves swiftly, allowing little time for scenes to drag.
What’s disappointing is that the script, by Don Fogelman, is largely uneven. Given that one of his more recent films, Crazy, Stupid, Love, is superbly written, it’s a shame that the story fails to captivate in a similar manner.
The film is at its worst when it goes for the cheap laugh. Grown men gawking at women who are young enough to be their daughters isn’t typically appealing, and yet several scenes feature just that. For instance, one of the first scenes shows the men watching a bikini contest and acting like dogs in heat—making it hard for us to connect with these characters on any real level. The same is true of the inevitable Viagra jokes.
But despite being frustratingly unfunny at times, there are plenty of highlights. Mary Steenburgen’s turn as a lounge singer who captures Billy’s attention and leads him to question his impending marriage is magnificent. The actress’s appearance breathes new life into the film and her storyline is one of the prime reasons that the film’s second act is far more enjoyable than the first. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s around this time in the movie in which the central characters become more vivid – especially when we come to understand more about the troubled relationship between Paddy and Billy.
Another draw is that De Niro, Douglas, Freeman, and Kline appear to be having a great time, which makes them a delight to watch. The dynamic between the four men doesn’t disappoint. This is particularly apparent in a later scene when the men throw a party in 50 Cent’s hotel suite and Archie busts a move to music so loud even 50 (in a cameo) has to ask them to turn it down.
With the actors being the legends that they are, it’s no surprise that their performances carry the flick – but its Kline and Freeman who shine most. Kline takes what could have been clichéd lines and manages to turn them into something fresh, while Freeman conveys a vulnerability that he seldom gets to on screen.
Yet Freeman’s Archie is arguably similar to the cancer-stricken ex-assassin the actor plays in Red, and drawing this parallel only reminds us how that film’s over-the-top absurdity trumps much of what Last Vegas has to offer.
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